A letter to... Others trapped
Perhaps you see yourself in my story...
It’s easy to say when you’re on the outside, looking in...
‘Why don’t you just leave him?’
But I know why you don’t. Can’t.
You have no money, no one to turn to, nowhere to go.
I know how trapped you feel.
You see, it took me more than 10 years to escape my abusive relationship.
I was 14 when one of the dads I babysat for took a shine to me.
I was flattered.
By the time I was 16, we’d started a relationship and he’d left his wife and kids.
‘I gave up my family for you,’ he’d say.
Made me feel like the most important person in the world.
That’s what they do, groomers, abusers...
But I was head over heels. No matter what anyone said,
I couldn’t see why the 20-odd year age gap was a problem.
We got our own place, I got a job.
But he still expected me to do all the chores, and nothing I did was ever good enough.
He made me feel self-conscious and down, yet still desperate to please him.
So, when he signed us up to a swingers website, I went along with it.
Soon, he was arranging for me to have sex with strangers. I hated it, but was too scared to say.
I had no control of my life. By my mid-20s, we had two kids – and while I was desperate to get away, he’d plunged me into financial difficulty.
Every penny I earned went on bills. If I wanted money for food, or clothes for the kids, I had to ask.
He took out loans, maxedout credit cards that I had to pay off.
I was his emotional and financial prisoner.
One day, I saw a video of myself at 14 and realised how young I’d been when he’d first laid eyes on me. Innocent, vulnerable. Still, it wasn’t until he raped me in front of our child that I knew I had to escape.
So I secretly scrimped and saved spare change from the money he gave me for groceries, essentials.
Gave £20 here, £10 there to a trusted friend to squirrel away.
That cash became my lifeline.
Eventually, I had enough for a deposit on a house, rent.
Then, while he was at work, I grabbed the kids and moved out.
For a while, I let him see the kids. Didn’t want them to be without a dad. But when he started trying to control me again, I packed up and moved once more.
I sought advice from Women’s Aid, and they supported me, helped me find a counsellor. Made me realise I wasn’t crazy, or alone.
I completed the Freedom Programme, an online course about domestic violence. It taught me so much.
Perhaps you’re reading this and can see yourself in my story.
Yours won’t be exactly the same.
Abusers are clever at disguising their method of control – be it financial, emotional or physical – until it’s too late.
But I need you to know, you can get out.
Plan, get your finances in order, reach out for help – because it is there.
Now, I’m finally free, in control of my own life. And you can be, too. Just believe in yourself, prepare.
And you will find the strength to leave. Love, Sam x
I was an emotional and financial prisoner
Saving brought me freedom